The up-and-down affair had both teams with leads. The Nationals led 1-0. Milwaukee went up 2-1 and then 3-1. The Nationals tied it on a Ryan Zimmerman two-run shot in the fourth. They went ahead 4-3 on a wild pitch.
The Brewers scored a run in the top of the ninth on a Rickie Weeks base hit to even the score 4-4.
But in the last of the ninth with Rendon at first and two outs, Werth got a hold of a Rob Wooten pitch and drove it down the line in left.
Third base coach Bob Henley waved Rendon home from first base, but with two outs, you would expect him to be running. Rendon crossed the plate with the winning run.
Scott Hairston, Tanner Roark and Bryce Harper were the first to get to Werth and the team celebration ensued. It was a walk-off winner on getaway Sunday in D.C.
“It’s about hitting off the fastball and being ready for a pitch to hit,” Werth said. “Sometimes when you get in a hitter’s count, the pitcher’s in trouble. You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities and we were able to do that today. ...
“That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we do this. If you find yourself in that situation and you don’t want to be there, I think you’re in the wrong line of work.”
A key spot came in the fourth inning with starter Gio Gonzalez struggling. Reliever Craig Stammen arrived and got the Nationals out of the inning, throwing 2 2/3 frames of hitless and scoreless baseball.
“I don’t know about saving the game. We had a lot of guys that did a lot of good things today,” Stammen said. “I was just one part of it. Coming in there, you’ve got to keep their lead where it is, can’t let them get any more. Luckily, (Zimmerman) came up with the big home run to tie it up.”
Stammen sensed early on that he might be called upon with Gonzalez laboring.
“I started warming up in the third inning because (Gio) was going through a really long inning,” he said. “So I was halfway loose when the fourth inning came around. I figured it was going to be pretty soon.”
Gonzalez threw 88 pitches in 3 1/3 innings and allowed four hits, three runs and walked three.
“It’s one of those games you’ve just got to brush under the rug,” Gonzalez said. “Nine days off, it didn’t help missing a bullpen and doing all that stuff. Obviously my command and my fastball location wasn’t where I wanted it to be.
“It wasn’t an impressive game, but the bullpen did their job keeping us in the game as long as possible. Hats off to (Stammen), he did an incredible job. I think we have one of the best bullpens in the game. When you have Stammen, Drew (Storen), (Tyler) Clippard and then (Rafael) Soriano coming in, it’s pretty dangerous.”
Stammen said he never starts a game thinking about going in so early, but he also knows he must be ready at all times to get loose quickly.
“There is a reason I go down (to the bullpen) in the first inning,” Stammen said. “You never know what could happen. You always prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Gio been pitching really well, but today his pitch count got up there high. I try to back him up as much as I can because he has helped our team a bunch.”
Stammen also contributed a key base hit in the Nationals’ three-run fourth.
A dribbler in front of the plate, Stammen beat the throw for a single. A wild pitch later on scored the go-ahead run for the Nationals and they led 4-3.
“As Drew said, speed doesn’t slump. He said I had to use that in the interview,” Stammen said as reporters chuckled. “I don’t know if it was speed. But it wasn’t necessarily fast, but if someone got in my way it probably wouldn’t have felt good for them.”
Gonzalez said he did try to make adjustments as the struggle continued into the fourth frame.
“I still have to attack the strike zone. Falling behind on every hitter, it’s obvious it’s going to show,” he said.
“Catcher Jose (Lobaton) was trying to tell me to stay closed and try to stay up there. But again see the fastball tailing off the plate, a little high, a little away, borderline pitches on the outside corner. Again, you’ve got to attack the strike zone especially with a team like this. You’ve got to force them to be aggressive and I wasn’t doing that today.”
Ironically, Gonzalez started the third inning with a strikeout of Rickie Weeks that was his 1,000th punchout of his career. It was the first time a Nationals pitcher had reached such a milestone. The Brewers ended up scoring two runs in that inning.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. It’s a great accomplishment in my career,” Gonzalez said. “I was happy to do it here with the Nats, but at the same time, just a better outcome would’ve been nice.”
Did he ever think about getting to such a milestone in his career?
“You look at it here and there. But at same time you enjoy the moment,” he said. “The players were acknowledging it, the fans were acknowledging it. It’s a pretty special moment in your career.”